A flier attempting to tie mayoral challenger Sandy Stimpson to racial atrocities of the Civil Rights Movement was distributed at a predominantly African-American church service Sunday morning and has quickly become the talk of the town with just two weeks left in the hotly contested election.
The flier was placed inside the Big Zion AME Church’s bulletin and then distributed on the street according to multiple sources. Tony Alexander, who claims to be the only white member of the church on South Bayou Street, said he received the flier. He also said the church’s pastor, the Rev. C. Vance Parker, had no knowledge the racially charged flier was being handed out at his church.
“I opened my bulletin Sunday morning and (the flier) was inserted in it,” Alexander said. “I would like everyone to know the pastor is new and does not convey what the flier is about. This is not his heart or his spirit. This isn’t the spirit or heart of the whole church. This came from some old members and we don’t have a name yet, but we will.”
By mid-morning Monday, the flier was being posted to websites and emailed across the city. Lagniappe received several emails from readers shocked and dismayed by what they viewed as a racially motivated attack on Stimpson. (mayoral debris copy).
While the flier goes after Stimpson politically, its most shocking part is a photo evoking an image from another Alabama city’s dark past. The flier, which does not have any group or affiliation listed on it, includes a famous photo taken by Bill Hudson for the New York Times that shows a Parker High School student being attacked by dogs in Birmingham in May 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement.
Next to the photo it says, “This is the price some paid for progress.” Mobile was actually free from many such clashes during the Civil Rights Movement.
When contacted about the flier, Mayor Sam Jones’ office had no comment. Steve Raby, Jones’ campaign consultant, said the mayor had nothing to do with distribution of the flier.
The flier also attempts to make more racial hay of Stimpson’s alleged involvement in Mardi Gras associations.
“He let his true color show through,” it reads, then quotes a Mobile Press Register article written about the Lagniappe-Mod Mobilian sponsored forum, which Jones was invited to attend, but declined.
“In perhaps the most awkward moment of the forum, Stimpson declined to directly answer whether he belongs to a ‘racially segregated’ Mardi Gras society, and whether he would give up his membership with an organization that practiced in segregation,” the article stated.
During the July 30 forum Mod Mobilian columnist Danielle Juzan asked the candidate if he belonged to a “racially segregated” Mardi Gras organization and if he would quit it if elected. Stimpson elaborated on his theme of “One Mobile,” but did not directly answer her question. Affiliation with Mardi Gras associations is traditionally a secret.
“The One Mobile slogan has to do with reaching out to everybody no matter where you live geographically, no matter what race you are or what gender you are or what age you are,” he said during the forum. “To do that, we must bring One Mobile together; follow a vision to be the safest and most business friendly in the city of America.”
The flier, however, also takes umbrage with Stimpson’s slogan of “One Mobile.”
“Stimpson (sic) slogan, ‘one Mobile’ should be ‘OLD MOBILE,’” it states. “We cannot let big money take us back.”
The flier also mentions Stimpson’s alleged campaign contributions, claiming he gave $12,000 to Republicans running for president in 2012, which the flier states was “money to defeat President Obama. It also says since 1992, Stimpson has donated more than $150,000 to Republican members of the Senate and Congress that “have fought to kill President Obama’s agenda.”
Obama has been in office since Jan. 20, 2009.
Stimpson said in a comment via email that the campaign should be about Mobile and not have something to take away from making Mobile better.
“It saddens me deeply that this has distracted us from talking about issues that affect city business,” he said.
Stimpson then offered some of the ways he and his wife, Jean, have helped the community.
“If we want to discuss my record, lets tell more of the story. Jean and I have been blessed and we have been giving back in an effort to improve our community and the lives of its citizens for 35 years,” he said. “We have personally contributed more than $100,000 to Prichard Preparatory School and helped raise nearly a $1 million in the past two years alone.
“Over the last five years, we have privately given more than $600,000 to churches and community outreach groups such as Wilmer Hall, Wings of Life, Boys & Girls Club, Drug Education Council, Waterfront Rescue Mission and the Child Advocacy Center. Groups that support all of Mobile.
“And we have raised more than $6 million for the Boys & Girls Club and $200,000 for the Mobile County Public School System in recent years.”
Stimpson reiterated his vision for the city is for everyone to come together for Mobile and called on the mayor to address only the issues in the final days of the campaign.
“My campaign has always been about the future of our city for ‘One Mobile.’ We’ll continue to talk about the issues that matter to all Mobilians — public safety, improved quality of life, jobs, education and economic development.
Politicians have slogans. ‘One Mobile’ is the way I’ve lived my life,” he said.
“I call on the mayor to join me in a pledge to keep this campaign about the issues and not let personal attacks distract us from talking about what will make Mobile stronger.”
The municipal elections are Aug. 27.
Updated to include the comments of Sandy Stimpson.